Software for autonomous vehicles looks into the future

September 15, 2020 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Software for autonomous vehicles looks into the future
A software for autonomous vehicles avoids accidents by computing multiple variants of a traffic situation in advance every couple of milliseconds and thus predicting probabilities.

The car approaches an intersection. A vehicle comes out of the crossroads; it is not yet possible to tell whether it is turning right or left. At the same time, a pedestrian runs into the road directly in front of the car, while a cyclist is standing on the other side of the road. A person who already has a routine in road traffic will in most cases be able to correctly assess the movements of other road users. Autonomous vehicles and their software, on the other hand, find it extremely difficult to cope with such situations. This means that accidents are likely - and acceptance of autonomous vehicles is declining.

Together with his team, professor Matthias Althoff, a member of the Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), has developed a software module that permanently analyses and forecasts what happens while driving: The vehicle's sensor data are recorded and evaluated every millisecond. The software now calculates all theoretically possible movements for each road user - at least as far as they are in accordance with the road traffic regulations. On this basis, the system looks three to six seconds into the future.

Based on these probable scenarios, the system determines various movement options for the vehicle. At the same time, the programme calculates possible emergency manoeuvres with which the vehicle - by accelerating or braking - can be brought to a safe place without endangering others. Only if a trajectory can be travelled without a foreseeable collision and an emergency manoeuvre is possible at the same time, may it be used by the autonomous vehicle.


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